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How to Figure Out What to Do

Increasing access to genetic testing can raise a range of questions for people who want to know what to do with information they receive, NPR says.

Boise State Public Radio's Sasa Woodruff recently discussed on NPR how she learned she carried a mutation in CDH1 that put her at greatly increased risk of developing stomach cancer, leading her to have a gastrectomy. "One of the things I was afraid of is, what if in two years, they find something where they can actually monitor for this so I won't have to have my stomach removed?" Woodruff, who spoke with a genetic counselor, told NPR. "Because it's so drastic. I was so afraid of making a mistake."

Such decisions, NPR now adds, could increase with wider genetic testing, though it notes that experts sometimes take different approaches.

Duke University's Nita Farahany tells it, for instance, that direct-to-consumer genetic testing "is an exciting field because it gives people direct access to information about themselves" in a more accessible way, though Stanford University's Hank Greely says that people may need resources and help to sift through that information, "not because they're lacking in intelligence but because they don't have the background or because they're not in a good emotional state to try to evaluate everything" after learning they are at increased risk of a particular disease.

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